It certainly happened, but Im damned if I know how any gunner could count on it happening for this very reason. Its the AFV equivalent of a down the throat Torpedo shot, yes theoretically it would work, but its not exactly something I would count on if you had another choice.
But that is the point, isn't it? There was no other choice if you were facing a Panther with, say, a 75mm M3 gun. So why not go for the underside of the mantlet, where you might get lucky with the bounce, you might get a hit perpendicular to the gun mantlet, you might hit an opening in the gun mantlet or you might hit the turret ring. All are small targets, difficult to hit, but the "bounce" is probably you best change of knocking out the tank. Soviet 45mm rounds penetrating this way maimed or killed the driver and/or hull gunner, a larger 75mm AP round that would brake up inside the tank might even set it on fire.
Another "bounce" story here: http://www.chars-fra...sk=view&id=1043
"Lorsque Kaysersberg sera atteint, on constatera que l’adversaire du RENARD était un PzKfw V “Panther” de 45 tonnes, pratiquement à l’épreuve de nos obus. Il a reçu plusieurs obus, dont l’un a par chance ricoché sur la partie inférieure du masque du canon, perçant le toit du poste de pilotage et tuant le pilote."
The "chin-mantlet" was introduced in September 1944, even though the problem had been there from July 1943. It would suggest, that the problem became bigger as time went by. An explanation could be, that it was a shot that more enemy gunners tried to take - for lack of other options - thus increasing the number of tanks lost to this cause.
Well reading the Jentz book, particularly the one on the Tiger, there is some evidence of remarkable disorganisation in the German Tank factories, from the delay in getting new components to the front of the queue, and sometimes using old out of date components because they hadnt been clear from the production line. The best example of that is rubber road wheels being used on Panther, after having used up a batch of steel roadwheels which were not replaced. Pure speculation on my part, but It may well be that they had solid mantlets earlier, and for production reasons did not get them to the front of the queue. Im pretty sure ive seen photos of panthers constructed at the end of the war (the British army ones are a good example) because they had used up the solid mantlets and had curved available.
So yes, it might have got worse towards the end of the war and was perceived as a problem that needed addressing. The problem was German factories were not encouraged to consult front line soldiers to build what they wanted, which meant a top down approach through the military bureucracy and all the delay that entailed. Or it may be they identified it as a potential problem earlier, introduced a new mantlet and did no persevere with it because they thought it was unnecessary. I guess what im saying is, you might be right, but the chaotic nature of German production suggests caution that just because something appeared at a particular point, it was because of a newly emerging problem. The perseverence with fitting Zimmereit to German tanks for so long is an indication of what I mean.
I certainly agree it happened. Id be a lot happier if someone can find lots more photos of it happening because you can look through Jean Paul Pallauds book 'Panzers in Normandy' and I had a job at the time identifying any panthers that might have been killed by this method. And there are lots and lots of dead panthers in that book.
Personally If I was facing a Panther that close, Id bail out. But thats just me.
Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 05 February 2017 - 0328 AM.